CPU & Motherboards

MSI X299 GAMING PRO CARBON AC Motherboard Review

Consumers may still be confused as to how they feel about AMD’s Ryzen processors but the general consensus for the top-tier Ryzen 7 processors is that they are workstation powerhouses for less cost and with Intel holding a premium for their HEDT lineup, its easy why most professionals jump over to Ryzen. This may have been enough for Intel to violently react and release a wave of products to displace its HEDT (high-end desktop lineup), so much so that its mixing in the current mainstream products in their extreme platform socket.

Joining our X299 motherboard batch is the MSI X299 GAMING PRO CARBON AC. This motherboard continues the legacy of MSI’s CARBON series motherboard which features racing-inspired visual themes including carbon fiber touches as well as the dashing curves common on exotic cars. As a motherboard, the CARBON series are the balanced entry for MSI in the past for currently sits on a higher seat in the X299 family. MSI did play it safe this generation and has created more of a skin approach to its X299 boards, dressing up each board and mixing up the features by a bit. Read on!

MSI X299 GAMING PRO CARBON AC Motherboard Review

 

Intel Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X

It’s quite the stack for Intel this time around for their HEDT line-up and with Kaby Lake-X getting added to the mix, it certainly gets a bit more confusing. To start off, the Skylake-X family is the larger of the two with the bulk of the LGA2066 processors stemming from this family. The Skylake-X is then further subdivided by another tier, separated by release schedule to the ones that will be released later this month. For this month, the Skylake-X-based Core i7 7800X, Core i7-7820X and Core i9-7900X (6-, 8-, 10-core parts respectively) will be available on pre-order today and are schedule to hit retailers by June 26. These are joined by the Kaby Lake-X models the Core i5-7640X and Core i7-7740X, both of which are more consumer-oriented but the platform cost that X299 boards entail may offset that. Last up are the higher-end Skylake X processors which will arrive later this year (reportedly August) to combat AMD’s Threadripper CPUs. The Skylake-X’s new high-end parts include the Core i9 7920X, 7940X, 7960X and the Extreme Edition 7980XE (12, 14, 16, and 18 core parts respectively.) All Skylake X processors feature HyperThreading along with the Core i7-7740X while the lone Core i5 does not.

Why a Core i5 or the Kaby Lake X exist for X299 is a question we do not have the answer for and there are many inferences we can come up with, its best to reserve them once we have the chip on hand.

Features & Specifications

  • Supports New Intel® Core X-series Processor Family for LGA 2066 socket
  • Supports DDR4-4266+(OC) Memory
  • MYSTIC LIGHT: 16.8 million colors / 17 effects controlled in one click with MYSTIC LIGHT APP or mobile devices.
  • 3D Printing Support: exchangeable cover and 3D X-MOUNTING screws.
  • Designed for Extreme Performance: TURBO SOCKET with GAME BOOST, DIGITALL POWER Design
  • Lightning Fast Game experience: TWIN TURBO M.2 with M.2 Shield and Intel Optane Memory Ready, Turbo U.2, LIGHTNING USB 3.1 GEN2
  • VR READY and VR BOOST: Best virtual reality game experience without latency, reduces motion sickness. Supports Nahimic VR & TriDef VR.
  • AUDIO BOOST 4 with NAHIMIC 2+: Reward your ears with studio grade sound quality for the most immersive gaming experience
  • DDR4 BOOST with STEEL ARMOR: Give your DDR4 memory a performance boost
  • GAMING LAN and Wireless support, powered by Intel®: The best online gaming experience with lowest latency and bandwidth management.
  • MULTI-GPU: With STEEL ARMOR PCI-E slots. Supports 3-Way NVIDIA SLI & AMD Crossfire
  • SYSTEM SAVER: 3 easy to use options to successfully boot your system again.
  • In-Game Weapons: GAME BOOST, GAMING HOTKEY, X-BOOST, XSPLIT GAMECASTER, APP MANAGER
  • GAMING CERTIFIED: 24-hour on- and offline game and motherboard testing by eSports players
  • Click BIOS 5: Award-winning BIOS with high resolution scalable font, favorites and search function
  • WHQL certified for Windows 10

Official product page

Unboxing

Closer Look

MSI X299 GAMING PRO CARBON AC Motherboard Review
MSI X299 GAMING PRO CARBON AC Motherboard Review
MSI X299 GAMING PRO CARBON AC Motherboard Review
MSI X299 GAMING PRO CARBON AC Motherboard Review
MSI X299 GAMING PRO CARBON AC Motherboard Review
MSI X299 GAMING PRO CARBON AC Motherboard Review
 

Mystic Light

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MSI X299 GAMING PRO Carbon AC light effect demo mode

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BIOS Gallery

Performance Testing

Intel X299 Setup
Processor: Intel Core i7-7800X
Motherboard: MSI X299 GAMING PRO CARBON AC
Memory: G.Skill Trident Z RGB DDR4-3600 8GB x 4
Storage: WD Blue 1TB SSD
GPU: COLORFUL GTX 1080 Vulcan X OC
PSU: Seasonic P1000
Display: ViewSonic VX2475SMHL-4k

AMD Test Setup
Processor: AMD Ryzen 7 1800X
Motherboard: ASUS ROG Crosshair VI Hero
Memory: Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-3000
Storage: WD Blue 1TB SSD
GPU: ZOTAC GTX 1080 AMP!
PSU: Seasonic P1000
Display: ASUS ROG PG27AQ

Note: Due to BIOS stability issues, the GIGABYTE X299 AORUS GAMING 9 is running at DDR4-2133 only. This will be updated soon.

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Memory Benchmarks

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Temperature and Power Consumption

We check to see how motherboard makers tune their default BIOS settings and see how it impacts temperatures and power consumption. The system is left to idle for 30 minutes before readings are taken and load data is taken 30 minutes while AIDA64 stress test is running. Power readings are taken for the entire system from the socket. Power draw for the entire system is captured for this test via an outlet wattmeter and temperatures via the brand software and confirmed with AIDA64 and Intel Extreme Tuning.

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We’ll leave this here for reference and comparison only of the stock BIOS settings for voltages and such of the motherboards we have. As of this moment, brands are still refining their BIOS so we’ll save any final say once we feel they have matured their settings.

Conclusion

 

As mentioned in our overview video, I’m quite partial to the looks of the MSI X299 GAMING PRO CARBON AC and have always been a fan of their CARBON series of motherboards. Truth be told, the CARBON series have mostly been recolors or retools of existing boards and the same can be said for their entire X299 line-up. That’s right, MSI has created skins for its X299 motherboards, all of which uses the same board layout with some varying specific feature like WIFI, RGB etc. We’ve already went through in detail in previous reviews about how MSI is trying a catch-all approach for its motherboards, offering reskins and retools of their boards in hopes that the visual appeal is enough to capture the attention of buyers and that has seem to work in favor of MSI with many of their boards offering a decent feature set all across the board, allowing a level playing field for all its product shine without sacrificing features when users choose to go with looks.

That being said, we shift back to the MSI X299 GAMING PRO CARBON AC which offers plenty of connectivity and an overall improved build quality that should really make their flagship gaming line a bit scared. The MSI X299 GAMING PRO CARBON AC does sit on the upper-end of the spectrum for MSI and it is by far their most sensible choice in terms of balance of features and looks. The swappable accessory covers, silver-on-black motiff and overall sexy look make it a great, natural choice for anyone looking for an aesthetics-inspired build. The possibility of 3D-printed accessories in the future also make it quite mod-friendly.

In terms of performance, the board is still a gaming board and performs as such with the latest BIOS allowing max Turbo frequencies, which gave it the edge in our benchmarks versus the BIOS-plagued GIGABYTE AORUS and the Intel-spec ASUS PRIME. That being said, all these motherboards are able to deliver equal performance but out-of-the-box, the MSI X299 GAMING PRO CARBON AC delivers the most from our bunch though that means little for anyone who knows a thing or two about what they’re doing.

MSI did a lot of things right with this motherboard, keeping things minimal and true to the CARBON series. The inclusion of a U.2 connector onboard was a great addition for U.2 SSD users as well as the choice to keep the RGB LEDs on a the tame side rather than the dotted excess we saw from the X99 release. As much we like this board though, its screaming lack of innovation and individuality hurts it, lacking any defining quality to make it more competitive versus its direct rival, the ASUS ROG STRIX X299. It may look good, it may be possibly cheaper, but ultimately when you’re in this level of cost, the little things matter and MSI’s decision to play safe with a cookie-cutter approach for the X299 does hurt it in some way, lacking any star power that makes their product pop. 

Overall, this is one of the most easily likable X299 boards out there. Easy on the eyes and packs a balanced feature set, the MSI X299 GAMING PRO CARBON AC is an easy recommendation for those that want to go the “gaming” route for their X299 build or want a possible foundation for a mod build in the future.

MSI backs the X299 GAMING PRO CARBON AC with a 3-year warranty. We give it our B2G Silver Award!


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